Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Power and Privilege preview: Q&As with presenters

Whitman College will host its third-annual Power and Privilege Symposium on Thursday, Feb. 19, 2015. All academic classes are cancelled for that day, so that students can attend different lectures and workshops. Here are some insights from some presenters at the upcoming event.

Senior Marga de Jong, a politics major, will  present a research project titled Interrogating Whitman’s Colonial Projects: Past and Present. This presentation is a collaboration with fellow seniors Elana Simon and Sayda Morales alongside Ali Holmes.

What sparked your interest in presenting at the symposium?

“I have attended the past two years and was inspired by what I saw and learned. I have become increasingly aware and disheartened by the politics of this institution. I believe that by learning and discussing how power has functioned from past to present, we can work to challenge institutional norms that create unjust communities.”

Where did you start researching for your project?

“Professor Melisa Casumbal’s class Race, Gender and the Body and Professor Shampa Biswas’s class Critical and Alternative Voices were both involved in developing this workshop. This workshop is very much inspired by Biswas’s class’s presentation at last year’s symposium titled, “Whitman and the Other.” Most of the materials workshop participants will be analyzing come from the Whitman archives. The Pioneer is a great resource to look at the bounds of membership at Whitman to see who has been excluded and othered.”

Does your project come to a conclusion about power and privilege?

“We are working with materials from the archive and collaborating with the workshop participants. We will pass out documents and have small group discussions to analyze this material. We want people to examine how Whitman has constructed and interacted with the ‘other’ through issues of membership, racial profiling and microaggressions.”

Do you see presenting as being proactive with these issues? Do you think it makes an impact in community?

“We need events like the Power and Privilege Symposium because systemic injustice is an ongoing problem. I’m an optimist in that I would like to believe there is not a big distinction between students, faculty and administration learning about and recognizing these unjust institutional norms and then working to change them.”

Does cancelling academic classes make an impact, and do events like the Power and Privilege Symposium improve issues at Whitman?

“Yes, events like the Power and Privilege Symposium make a difference. I think that these projects challenge Whitman by raising consciousness and creating a more justice-oriented student body. I am all for canceling classes to promote the event.”

Arty Kraisitudomsook is a junior biology major from Thailand and is a part of the presentation Internationality and Culture Shock. Arty is moderating a panel of two students from Vietnam and Brazil, a Whitman student who has been abroad in Spain, and Kyle Martz, the interim program advisor for the Intercultural Center.

Why is your group presenting on this particular topic?

“As an international student, there is a huge culture shock associated with moving to the United States. It is something that any international student at Whitman can relate to, even if they have only traveled abroad for one semester. I am real passionate about this topic, and it is something that I can really elaborate on with fellow students.”

Do you think events like the Power and Privilege Symposium are a step in the right direction for improving diversity at Whitman?

“If the college staff, faculty and admission officers come and listen to panels/workshops, it could improve the problems the college currently faces. It will help them understand students concerns. Students are already trying to improve socioeconomic diversity, but we need their help.

What does it mean to you to present in this event?

“This is a very big event, and every member of the Whitman community should have time to attend. The annual symposium can teach people things they can apply to life later on and understand how hard it is to adapt as an international student.”

Why are you presenting?

“Since the majority of Whitman students are American, most do not know what it is like to be abroad. It is a huge learning experience to grow in a new country and connect with others through your experience. I want to share how this new environment has challenged me with others.”

Joel Ponce is a junior music theory major presenting a project titled Year of the Booty: From Nicki Minaj to Iggy Azalea. His project is a collaboration with sophomore Tara McCulloch.

What is your presentation about?

“Our project looks at different popular female figures (Taylor swift, Nicky Minaj, Meghan Trainor, Miley Cyrus) and how different types of women can empower themselves in different ways. We are looking at how people perceive things through different identities and the messages these females send.”

Do you agree with the way these celebrities present themselves in media?

“I agree with some of the messages these women portray, but the way they do it could cause complication. These women are definitely trying to send out a positive message and are huge influences on young women’s perception of their bodies.”

Why did you become interested in giving a presentation at the event?

“I think about social justice everyday. The Power and Privilege Symposium is a way to invite others to think about these issues, since they might not be on every persons mind. Many people are affected every day by these issues, and it feels good to spread awareness.”

Whitman cancels a day of academic classes to have the Symposium. How do you feel about this?

“The commitment and willingness to cancel academic classes acknowledges these issues that are very important to both students and faculty. There are alternative ways students can learn and grow out of the classroom, and I am all for expanding the way we gain knowledge.”

How do you think the Power and Privilege Symposium affects the community? Is it a step in the right direction for improving diversity at Whitman?

“I think that having an open place to talk about all these issues is definitely encouraging it. Events like the symposium will cause admissions to reach out and attract a more diverse community. This event is a way to invite people to be diverse on campus and show how people see power and privilege. We still need to foster and improve on this progress, but it is definitely a step in the right direction.”

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